Podcast Transcript: Three reasons to build your business in Nanjing

Canada has just doubled its commercial footprint in China.

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has opened six new offices in China. Starting now Canadian companies can benefit from expanded trade, investment and innovation partnerships with in market and local expertise.

The offices are staffed with business development experts with strong connections within each of the new cities, so Canadian companies might want to put their China strategy on the front burner if it isn’t already.

I’m Michael Mancini, Editor-in-chief of CanadExport, the official e-magazine of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.

Today, we’ll focus on Nanjing, the second largest commercial center in the East China region after Shanghai. In fact, Forbes magazine has it ranked fourth in its listing of Top 100 Business Cities in Mainland China.

On the phone with me to talk about why Canadian companies should know about the benefits of Nanjing is Keith Kan, Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Consulate General in Shanghai. Thanks for speaking with me today Keith.

Keith Kan: Thank you, Michael.

Michael Mancini: So Keith, what would you say are the top reasons Canadian companies should do business in Nanjing?

Keith Kan: Well, Nanjing’s proximity to Shanghai makes it a very compelling natural market for Canadian companies already serving and doing business in China. In east China alone there are already about 150 Canadian companies active, so clearly reaching out to Nanjing makes plenty of sense.

Infrastructure in the region has vastly improved in a few short years. Today it only takes around two hours to take a fast train from Shanghai into Nanjing. Companies have a lot of choices — they can also take a very modern highway — making movement and business very easy.

Michael Mancini: What would be the second reason?

Keith Kan: Well, the second reason will be Shanghai’s relative competitive and business friendly environment. Early on you mentioned that it was ranked by Forbes as one of the top ten cities in mainland China to do business. And definitely Shanghai has a really strong industrial base. The traditional economy includes automotive, petrochemicals and iron and steel, but it’s also trying to develop its technology-intensive industries like information technology, biopharma and advanced manufacturing. This transformation is creating a lot of opportunities, and it’s fueled by a lot of the investment in that particular region.

Also, Nanjing has a very strong talent base. In fact, Nanjing has around two percent of China’s universities, which is around 200 universities. And this figure is quite significant for any Chinese city. Beijing and Shanghai have three or four percent. So that access to talent is definitely very important, and also an opportunity in and of itself. Many Canadian universities and high schools have already formed partnerships in that region, delivering joint degree programs in various disciplines, or joint curriculum delivery and exchange programs.

Michael Mancini: So it does seem to have a very diverse economic base. What’s your third reason?

Keith Kan: Well, the third reason to be in Nanjing is its strategic location. Nanjing was China’s capital city for six dynasties and its geography makes it a very unique location where it can connect not only to Shanghai but further inland to other provinces like Anhui and Shaanxi. Nanjing is a large city of seven million people, the second-largest in the region. And it is also the capital city of Jiangsu province, which is one of China’s most prosperous and developed provinces.

You may or may not know that Jiangsu province is twinned with Ontario, and in many ways both provinces share many common sectoral interests including the automotive sector, manufacturing and high tech. Jiangsu province is also leading in terms of attracting foreign investment. And you may have heard of some of its cities towards the south of the province which have created a really strong high-tech base. This prosperity and growth is definitely driving the development of Nanjing.

Michael Mancini: You talked about how the Jiangsu province is twinned with Ontario. What kinds of benefits might this kind of twinning actually bring to a typical Ontario company, or is this largely symbolic?

Keith Kan: This twinning relationship actually has strong commercial links as well. In fact, the province of Ontario brings in several business delegations into Jiangsu province. For example, we will help leverage opportunities with companies that are part of delegations in the environment sector.

Michael Mancini: Oh, so there really are concrete benefits to this relationship. Why was it important for the Trade Commissioners Service to open an office in Nanjing, as opposed to just servicing Nanjing out of Shanghai?

Keith Kan: Well, we’ve all heard that China’s a large and diverse market, and there’s a lot of truth in that. Within the Yangtze delta region, or the east China region, there are over 35 cities with a population over one million. So there’s definitely a very big market out there. And it’s not possible for everyone to be everywhere and we need to be strategic and choose the best location to make an impact. Nanjing is one of those locations that allows the Trade Commissioner Service to better service its clients and identify future opportunities.

Michael Mancini: Now, can you give me a sense for what it’s like for a typical Canadian company to do business in Nanjing? What would be some of the challenges a Canadian company might face there?

Keith Kan: Well, for a Canadian company entering Nanjing, it’s a big city and it’s definitely hard to know which local companies are suitable to do business with and vice versa. Local companies do not necessarily know a lot about Canadian companies. And so finding the right partner and knowing who to speak to would be a big challenge. And this is where I think the Nanjing trade office can definitely help.

Michael Mancini: Can you give me an example of that?

Keith Kan: Well, most recently, in collaboration with Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, the Trade Commissioner Service organized a virtual trade mission, which used a video conference to connect Canadian food exporters with Chinese food buyers from five cities in China. And this included Nanjing. This was an opportunity for business people to communicate in real time, to learn about Canadian food products, but also to sample these food products, which were pre-shipped to China just for this conference.

In Nanjing there were about 15 local participants, and many of them expressed interest in the Canadian products after the conference. I think this is a great example of how the Nanjing office can serve Canadian companies. There’s a lot of work to do, but that’s the advantage of having a Trade Commissioner on the ground to follow up with questions, to pursue the opportunity, and hopefully to connect Nanjing businesses with Canadian companies to make a sale in the future.

Michael Mancini: Now, for those companies that might be interested in contacting our Trade Commissioner in Nanjing, what should they do?

Keith Kan: Well, they can contact Margaret Hui in Nanjing. And to find out more visit, and there they can learn more about the city and get more contact information.

Michael Mancini: Well, that’s great. Thank you very much, Keith, for your time today.

Keith Kan: You’re welcome.

Michael Mancini: Well, that’s all for this podcast edition of CanadExport. Be sure to check out our five other podcasts which look at the other cities in the expansion of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in China.

As Keith said, don’t forget to contact Margaret Hui at our office in Nanjing to find out how she can help your company. Go to to do that. Or you can get Margaret’s contact information on the CanadExport website at this podcast page. While you’re there, you can learn more about the other cities in the TCS expansion in China.

And you might also want to contact one of our 18 regional offices across Canada for help in assessing your export readiness. Again, just visit to get that information.

I’m Michael Mancini, signing off for now.

To download our other episodes, just go to or go to iTunes and use the searchword “CanadExport.”

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